Sony Ericsson Expands Android

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Barcelona, Spain -

Sony Ericsson

expanded its Android smartphone selection with the avowed intent of expanding its U.S. market share, and it announced that Verizon Wireless would begin carrying its PlayStation-certified Android-based game phone, the Xperia Play, in early spring.

The game phone will be Sony Ericsson's first phone for a U.S. CDMA carrier in years. The company

left the North American CDMA market

in 2003.

Prices weren't announced.

Like the Xperia Arc announced at International CES, the three new Xperia-series phones unveiled here at the Mobile World Congress use the latest Android OS, called Honeycomb or 2.3. All three feature 1GHz processor.

The Xperia Neo and Arc, which is the thinnest of the four at 8.7mm at its thinnest part, will ship in global markets in March, and though versions banded for U.S. 800/1900MHz HSPA networks have been developed. The Xperia Pro, also planned for U.S. 850/1900MHz HSPA networks, will be available globally at the end of Q2. U.S. consumers will be able to enjoy the Neo, Arc, and Play "in the next few weeks," a spokesman said during a launch event here.

Although the Pro and Neo were promoted by brand and strategy head Cathy Davies as "business-ready," in part because of Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, the Pro is optimized for email and chat, thanks to a slide-from-the-side keyboard, preloaded Office Suite Pro to view and edit documents, a split email user interface that displays an inbox on one side of the screen and previews emails on the other side, and a smart keyboard that automatically opens up a dialog box to reply when opened when the email app is in use.

All Xperia models are also positioned "as the most entertaining smartphones," said Rikko Sakaguchi, Sony Ericsson executive VP. But the Play will be the first-ever smartphone to deliver "an immersive game experience," thanks to PlayStation certification approved by Sony Computer Entertainment, said Sony Ericsson president/CEO Bert Nordberg.

 The Play is the first phone with PlayStation certification and licensing; certification is open to all phone makers.

 The Play features a slide-out PlayStation game controller and ability to play select PlayStation titles "as originally designed" for Android smartphones, said executive Dominic Neil-Dwyer. More than 50 PlayStation titles will be available at launch for the device from such companies as Electronic Arts, Gameloft and Glu Mobile. The titles will include Guitar Hero and Battlefield. Mobile-dedicated games will also be enhanced for the phone, including Electronic Arts' Fifa with multiplayer gaming.

Initially, classic PlayStation games will be available for download from Google's Android Marketplace, and the phone will ship with one preloaded classic PlayStation 1 title, but Sony Ericsson will launch toward the end of the year a PlayStation Network store to download "richer" games, said Sakaguchi.

The Play features a 4-inch screen, compared with the Arc's 4.2-inch screen and the 3.7-inch screens of the Pro and Neo. All four new Android phones, however, feature 854 by 480-pixel multi-touch touchscreen with Sony's proprietary Reality Display and Mobile Bravia Engine, 1GHz processor, DLNA certification, Wi-Fi, assisted GPS, included 8GB MicroSD card, HDMI output, HD video capture and Sony Exmor R CMOS sensor for low-light photography. All have an 8.1-megapixel camera except for the Play, which features a 5.1-megapixel camera. The Play, however, adds Wi-Fi hot spot capability.

 Like other Sony Ericsson phones, all four phones feature Sony Ericsson's Timescape UI, which consolidates all types of messages with a particular person, whether SMS, email, Facebook, Twitter or pictures, the company said.

Other features common to all four phones include stereo Bluetooth and Adobe Flash (Flash Lite for the Play). All but the Play have FM radio.


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